Monday, June 28, 2010

Hollywood Theater Has Been Through the Wringer—In a Good Way

Last week, I met a famous actor and a renowned musician. Both of them starred in the new flick “The Gray Area,” which I saw at the Hollywood theater on the second-longest day of the year, June 22. The film started at 7pm, and by the time it was out at 8:45pm the sun was still high in the sky. Part of me felt as though I’d wasted a gorgeous afternoon—sitting in the dark instead of playing basketball or riding my bike or running—even though it was a well-spent evening.

Have you been to the Hollywood theater? It’s a non-profit venue that was built in 1926, originally meant for live orchestras and vaudevilles (magicians, trained animals, comedians, dancers and so on that come together for “variety entertainment”). Apparently it’s been through the wringer these past 76 years. From the dusty, red spiral staircase to the creaky wooden seats that populate the theater, it’s easy to envision 1950s movie-goers walking around the place, clad in fluffy dresses and suits, buckets of popcorn in hands. In this vision, the deep-rooted venue is brighter, its saturation turned up.

On June 22, I stroll through the Hollywood theater like the camera does at the beginning of the movie “Titanic”: I observe the theater’s current state—dusty, ugly, old, perhaps ruined—until my imagination takes flight and I see sparkling gold door handles, clean carpets, bright red curtains, and walls that drip with life and color. The music in my head turns on, and it’s classical. Violins and pianos come alive while the venue radiates old-fashioned energy.

I take my seat near the middle of the theater and heave a Quiznos salad from my purse. I eat it while the movie starts. (That’s one great thing about old venues—employees don’t care if you bring your own food and wine in.) The film is written, directed and produced by a couple of Portlanders in their mid-twenties. With just a $24,000 budget, it’s Oscar-worthy.

The renowned musician? Is Jeff. His song plays during a bar scene at a crucial point in the film. But when we hear his voice in the background, neither of us listen to a word the actors speak and instead tune into his lyrics: the volume, timbre and how they sound on the big screen. We dub this night Jeff’s music motion-picture debut.

The famous actor I meet? Is the antagonist in the flick. He plays a drug dealer, and for most of the film he’s bloody and getting the shit kicked out of him. I notice him on the street after the movie—he’s much smaller than he looks on screen—and I call, “Nice flick!” And then I pump my fist in the air like the guys from The Jersey Shore.

He hollers back, “You saw it? Aww, thanks!”

And the child in me feels as though I’ve just met Brad Pitt. I want to ask for his autograph, but I decide against it so as not to make the musician jealous.

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  1. Awesome place although I haven't been since the '70s.